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Studies on Sean O'Casey

Jacqueline Genet
Wynne Hellegouarc’h

The Language of Sean O'Casey: A Text Analysis of The Shadow of a Gunman

Martin I. Croghan

Texte intégral

  • 1 The text used in this paper is The Shadow of a Gunman, in S. O'Casey, Three Plays (London: Macmill (...)

1In this paper the language of The Shadow of a Gunman is analysed as a sample of the language used by O'Casey in his Dublin trilogy, Juno and the Paycock, the Gunman, and The Plough and the Stars.1 The purpose of the paper is to establish by means of text analysis the meta-semiology of O'Casey's use of language. By meta-semiology here is meant the para-semantic function of language, i.e. the extra meaning which a particular language usage may carry to mark or to assign meaning to, those who use such language. A semiological approach could be applied in a variety of ways, but this paper attempts to provide an answer to the following question: How does language in the Gunman do the Job of establishing the cultural context, with regard to nationality and national ascription, religion and religious ascription, and socio-cultural status?

  • 2 A.C. Partridge, "O'Casey" (Glossary), in Language and Society in Anglo-Irish Literature (Dublin: G (...)
  • 3 B. Schrank, Reflection of Reality: A study in the Uses of Language and Time in the Plays of Sean O (...)
  • 4 C. Kearney, "The Language of O'Casey: The Glamour of Grammar", in Bramsback & Croghan, n. 2.

2In the academic literature, there are many references to the language of O'Casey, but there have been few formal studies of this language.2 The scholar who has written most comprehensively of O'Casey's language, including a study of the language used in the Gunman, has been severely critical of those who deal with O'Casey's language in a vague and impressionistic way.3 Another author has written on the text of the Gunman from a semiological point of view, but the approach is philosophical and not linguistic;4 it is claimed that the text of the Gunman exhibits an “anti-writing bias”. It will be argued in this paper that the written text of the Gunman is a highly contrived and ideological manipulation of written language, which uses writing to exploit linguistic and phonological aspects of real speech.

  • 5 U. Ellis-Permor, The Irish Dramatic Movement (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd" 1939), p.13; R. Ayling, " (...)
  • 6 D. Krause, "The Playboys and Paycocks", in The Profane Book of Irish Comedy (Ithaca: Cornell Unive (...)

3The "anti-writing bias" assumption about the language of O'Casey is part of a long-standing academic tradition which has claimed that the language of Irish writers such as Synge and O'Casey is an accurate portrayal of spoken language in Ireland. In this tradition it is claimed that O'Casey's Dublin plays are a written representation of Dublin speech;5 this paper will propose that the text of the Gunman provides no evidence for such a claim. The controversy about whether O'Casey was an exponent of stage-Irishism is also part of a long-standing academic tradition.6 This paper will argue that there is no evidence in the text which would justify calling the Gunman a stage-Irish text; it will also be argued, however, that this text merits being considered as a classic example of generic petit-bourgeois writing, i.e., writing which elaborately constructs a group which, semiologically, is depicted as deviant and of low status.

4Any methodology for text analysis is necessarily tedious und clumsy; real language does not slot easily into convenient categories. There is some overlap in the taxonomy, and possibly errors in some of the entries; there are also probably errors in the omission of certain items. The text was first marked to distinguish so-called British Standard English (BSE), from Hiberno-English and from other types of language used. Sometimes the indicator in the text was conveniently orthographic; the difficulties arose when lexical, syntactical and stylistic items were also included. It is almost impossible, for example, to establish with absolute definitiveness whether some items are exclusive to Hiberno-English stylistically, or whether they are also found in other varieties of English; the basic tools for such an analysis of Hiberno-English do not exist. The second stage in the methodology involved the notation of the items in the text which marked national and religious ascription. All of the marked items, including the non-BSE items, were then put into various categories listed below.

5The following language establishes the Irish but particularly the Dublin context of the play. Such language is used principally by Seamus Shields (SS), and also by Donal Davoren (DD) and Mr. Gallogher (MO). Note also the ritual criticism of Ireland, which could still be classified as a minor category of phatic communication in contemporary Hiberno-English; as with all ritual and ritual-phatic language, the language and the context is highly stylised, as may be seen if the language here is compared to the language used in the criticism of Ireland by the Auxiliary soldier of the British military forces, below:

Names (Seamus, Maguire, Knocksedan, Donal, Biddy, Shaun etc.), land of Saints and Scholars... a land of bloody poets (SS 81), Is there any use of tryin' to do anything in this country (SS 81), the Pro-Cathedral (SS 84), the Irish People aren't... fit for self-government (SS 84), the Irish people (SS 84, Saint Teresa Street, situate in the parish of St. Thomas, in the Borough and City of Dublin (MO 98), the Coombe (MO 100), a hundred thousand welcomes (MO 103), the Irish people (DD 106), its a hopeless country (SS 120) - Oh, the country is hopeless, and people is hopeless (SS 125), I was born in Ireland (DD 123).

6The general Irish and the nationalist Irish categories are bridged by the use of the following, in Irish, by Seamus Shields (SS), Donal Davoren (DD) and Mrs. Henderson (MH):

Is truagh gan oidher 'na Vrarradh (SS 88), Donal Og (DD 88), Sinn Fein Amhain (MH 101).

7Irish Nationalist language signals the characters of Shields (SS), Davoren (DD), and Mr. Gallogher (MO), and also includes Minnie Powell (MP), Tommy Owens (TO), and Mrs. Henderson (MH). When Adolphus Grigson (AG) and Mrs. Grigson (MG), use such language it is only to report the language of others such as TO, and the sarcastic use of nationalist language by the Auxiliary soldier of the British forces:

Kathleen ni Houlihan (SS 82/110), Black and Tans (DD 82), Cuchullian (SS 83), an Irish Republic, a Gael x 2, I taught Irish six nights a week, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, when the Church refused to have anything to do with James Stephens, I tarred a prayer for the repose of his soul on the steps of the Pro-Cathedral, Dark Rosaleen, a roarin' republican, Balor of the Evil Eye King of Ireland (SS 84), on the run (SS 87), a descendant of the true Gaels of Banba, the chieftains of famed Inisfail (SS 88), a lovely poem on Ireland an' the men o' '98 (MP 90)/ we've had enough of poems... about '98, and of Ireland, too (DD 90), a Republican (MP 90), No man... dies... (DD 92)/ Except for his country, like Robert Emmet (MP 92), 'Up the Republic' (TO 94), the Republic (DD 94), the Saxon coward an' knave (TO 94), High upon the gallows tree stood the noble-hearted three/By the vengeful tyrant stricken in their bloom/But they met him face to face with the spirit of their race/And they went with souls undaunted to their doom/God save Ireland ses the hayros, God save Ireland ses we all/Whether on the scaffold high or the battle-field we die/Oh, what matter when for Ayryinn dear we fall, the I.R.A., as Sars-field said at the battle o'Vinegar Hill (TO 91/5), the Irish Republican Army (MO 98/100 x 2), It's a hard wallop at the British Empire (MH 98), Republican Courts (MO 99), the Republican Army (MO 100), 'Faith ov Our Fathers' an' 'Wrap the Green Flag Roun me' (MO 103), Faith an' Fatherland x 2 (MO 103), The Republicans (SS 106), I do not mourn me darlin' lost, for he fell in his Jacket Green (SS 109), 'The Soldiers' Song' (SS 110), to save the soul of Ireland, in Ireland, I'm a Nationalist (SS 111 x 3), the men that are fightin' for Ireland's freedom (MH 103), there never was a drop of informer's blood in the whole family av Grigson (AG 116), the 'Soldiers' Song', the I.R.A., the Staff (AG 119), the Irish Republican Army (DD 119), the Tans (DD 120), the Republican Movement (DD 121), an Irishman (Aux.123), Irish nan' proud of it, your'e a selt, one of the seltic race (Aux.123), an' the picture of a sacret society (MG 125), the Irish Republic (MG 125).

8In contrast to the use of Irish-Nationalist language, two characters, Adolphus (AG) and Mrs. Grigson (MG), use language with Orange Order and anti-Nationalist references. The language sometimes links religion and political ideology:

I'm an Orangeman, Fear God an' honour the King, Here's to King William, to the battle av the Boyne, to the Hobah Black Chapter-that' s my Lodge... an' to the Orange Lily O (AG 117), An' dud ya go to see the show, each rose an' pinkadilly O/To feast your eyes an' view the prize won be the Orange Lily O/The Vic'roy there, so debonair, Just like a daffadilly O/With Lady Clarke, blithe as a lark, approached the Orange Lily O/Heigh Ho the Lily O/The Royal Loyal Lily O/Beneath the sky what flower can vie with Erin' Orange Lily O!/The elated Muse, to hear the news, Jumped like a Connaught filly O/As gossip Fame did loud proclaim the triumph av the Lily O/The Lowland field may roses yield, gay heaths the Highlands hilly O/But high or low no flower can show like Erin's Orange Lily O/Heigh Ho the Lily O/The Royal, Loyal Lily O/ Beneath the sky what flower can vie with Erin's Or... (AG 117/8), An' we have a picture over the mantelpiece of King William crossing the Boyne... they wanted to make out it was Robert Emmet, an' the picture of a sacret society (MG 125).

9Certain characters, Donal Davoren (DD), Seamus Shields (SS), Tommy Owens (TO), Mrs. Henderson (MH), and Minnie Powell (MP), are marked through the use of language with a Catholic, and Catholic-Nationalist reference. The Catholic Includes both the religious and religious-ethical, and ritual language from Catholic belief. Adolphus Grigson (AG) and Mrs. Grigson (MG) use generic Christian and religious language:

The Angelus (DD 81/SS 81), so that I could get Mass (SS 81), ... your way's a thorny way (SS 82/88), I rejoice in the vindication of the church and truth (SS 82), the four cardinal virtues, for the repose of his soul, the Pro-Cathedral, in the name o' God (SS 84), on the mantelpiece behind one of the statues (SS 88), your Just and lawrul debts (L 86), s'help me God (TO 94), God and His holy angels be between you an' all harm (MH 96), I 'clare to God (MH 101/MG 113, 126), an' God keep you and stregthen all the men... (MH 103), Sacred Heart (MP 103), God between us an' all harm. Thank God. Sacred Heart (SS 108),counting their beads, their Hail Marys, holy water, Mass, De Profundis, 'the glory o' God an' the honour o' Ireland, they don't give a God's curse (SS 110), I leave fear of death to the people that are always praying for eternal life (DD 111), Thanks be to God I'm a daily communicant (SS 111), There's a great comfort in religion -it makes a man strong in time of trouble and brave in time of danger (SS 111), No man need be afraid with a crowd of angels round him - thanks to God for His Holy religion (SS 111), you're welcome to your angels (DD 111), Jesus, Mary, an' Joseph... (SS 111), the Angelus was rlngin' out (MG 113), many a true Irishman was a Protestant-Tone, Emmet an' Parnell (SS 117) God forbid! (MG 118), what in the name of God... (SS 118), the orders of the Ten Commandments (SS 118/9), thanks be to God (DD 120), for God's sake (SS 120), My God (DD 120), Holy Mother of God (SS 120), St. Anthony look down on us! (SS 120), Mother o' God, grant... (SS 121), ... when I missed Mass this mornin' (SS 121), Give over your praying (DD 121), my God (DD 122), Hail, Mary, full of grace-pray for us miserable sinners-Holy St. Anthony... (SS 122), a statue o' Christ!, An' a Crucifix!, You'd think you was in a bloomin' monastery (Aux. 124), God to-night (MG 127 x 2), God blast her (SS 127), God grant... (SS 127 x 2), Merciful God (AG 129). For God's sake (129)

10The text of the stage-directions and the play itself, mark a Catholic space by having a statue of the Virgin, a picture of the Sacred Heart, and a crucifix in the middle of the mantelshelf (79, SS 88), and the text marks a Protestant space by reference to a picture of King William crossing the Boyne on the mantelpiece (MG 125).

11Adolphus Grigson (AG) and Mrs. Grigson (MG) are also signalled as Protestant by reference to the use and authority of the Bible:

I have the authority of the Bible for that, I know the Bible from cover to cover... and that's more than some in this house could say, And what does the Holy Scripture say about woman? (AG 116), the teaching av the Holy Book in the letter an' the spirit, the Bible forbids it, an' AG'11 always abide be the Bible, Fear God and honour the King-that's written in Holy Scripture (AG 117), Just to show them the sort of a man he was, before they come in, Dolphie put the big Bible on the table, open at the First Gospel of St. Peter, second chapter, an' marked the thirteenth to the seventeenth verse in red ink (MG 124), 'Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, an' for the praise of them that do well Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the King' (MG 124/5).

12Language is also used in the Gunman in a variety of ways to signal social status. Donal Davoren (DD), for example, is portrayed as consistently using BSE, while the status of other characters, the Landlord (L), Minnie Powell (MP), Tommy Owens (TO), Mrs. Henderson (MH), Mr. Gallogher (MO), Mrs. Grigson (MG), Adolphus Grigson (AG), and Seamus Shields (SS), is portrayed by the use of deviant language, i.e., through the use of malapropism and purple or pompous language, misspelling, and faulty syntax. It is irrelevant whether some of this language Is real or artificial; what is Important semiologically is that only certain characters are marked by the use of deviant language.

13Malapropisms and pompous, purple language are used by the Landlord (L), Minnie Powell (MP), Tommy Owens (TO), Mrs. Henderson (MH), Mr. Gallogher (MO), Mrs. Grigson (MG), Adolphus Grigson (AG), and Seamus Shields (SS):

ARGUFYIN (L 85), BURGEONS (MP 94), DISREMEMBERED (TO 95), ASUNDER (MH 97), in all FAIRITY (MH 97), CLEVERALITY (MII 98), DECOMPOSED (MH 98), an UNVARNISHED respectability (MO 100), PARRATOX (MO 102) – parrot talks (MH 102), PAR-T1CULARATED (MO 102), INTERPRETATE (MO 103), DELUDIN (MG 116), a stiff upper FRONT (AG 129); AS I AFORESAID (MH 97), IN RESPECT OF AND APPERTAINING TO (MO 98), the COMPLAINANTS AFORESAID (MO 90), AS AFORESAID SPECIFIED (MO 99), For it's ABOMINABLE... and SHOCKIN' ... (MH 99), a PRIMMY FASHY CASE (MO 100), EXPANDED UPON in the letter, MANDAMUS OR SCHEDULE (MO 102), SUPERNALLY POSITIVE (MO 103), a GALVANIC battery or shocks (SS 112); the INFERNAL DEITIES (SS 80), berore the LAST CHIME has struck (SS 81), in the ARDURE ov me anger (TO 95).

14Misspellings are used to signal the characters of the off-stage voice, female (VF), Seamus Shields (SS), the Landlord (L), Minnie Powell (MP), Tommy Owens (TO), Mrs. Henderson (MH), Mrs. Grigson (MG), Adolphus Grigson (AG), and Mr. Gallogher (MO):

15-ing form as in':

callin' (Vr 80, MH 101), rushin roarin' (SS 84), lookin', arguryin' (L 85), gostherin' (SS 85), billickin' (L 86), coddin' (MP 91), tidyin' (MP 92), nothin' (TO 93, 91), meddlin', makin' (TO 94), havin' (MH 96, 101), sayin' (TO 98), bein', shockin' (MH 99), havin', settlin', beginnin', malavoggin' (MH 101), typewritin' (MP 101), stoppin', belon-gin', standin' (SS 106), talkin' (SS 108), gaddin', barrin' (SS 109), blowin', dyin' (SS 111), takln' (MG 112, 113, 111), tellin', ringin', sittin', thinkln' (MG 113), fum-blin', mindin' (MG 114), deludin' (MG 116), blottin' (AG 117, 128), goin' (SS 118, 120), blowin' (AG 119), Jokin' (SS 120), gettin' (MG 125), gostherin' (AG 128), tappin' (SS 130)

16OUL for (old): (SS 80, 87, 88, 106, 107), (MP 90, 104), (MH 101).

17ME (for my): (SS 82, 84, 107), (L 86), (TO 95), (MH 101), (MG 113).

18MESELF (for myself): (SS 82 x 2, 111), (L 85), (MO 103).

19BE (for by): (SS 83), L 85, 86), (MP 90), (MG 114), (MO 99), (MII 101 ).

20AN' (for and): (SS 84, 86, 108, 109, 111), ( L. 86 x 5), (MP 92 x 2, 93), (TO 94), (MH 96 x 6, 97 x 6, 98, 99. 101), (MO 103 x 2), (MG 113 x 2, 114, 125, 126, 127, 128 x 2), (AG 116, 128).

21UD (for would): (L 85 86), (MP 92), (MH 101), (SS 106, 107, 112, 120), (MG 115), (AG 116, 128).

22DUD (for did): (AG 117).

23O' (for of): (MP 89 x 2), (MH 96, 97, 99, 101).

24OV (for of): (TO 95), (MH 96, 97), (MO 103 x 2).

25AV (for of): (AG 116, 119).

26The following single items are used:

AGAIN' (L 86), SOWL (L 86)/SOWL-CASE (MH 101), S' HELP (TO 94), SES (TO 94), HAYROS (TO 94), WAN (MH 96), GALLICKER (MH 97 x 2), SITUATE (MO 98), PRIMMY FASHY (MO 100), PEN-NORTH (MII 101), 'CLARE (MII 101/MG 113), DIVILS (MH 101), YIS (Vo 102), KEP (MH 103/MG 130), HANS (MH 103), Vic'roy (AG 117), ASELF (MP 122), SACRET (MG 125), BUZZOM (Vo 129).

27It might be argued that the use of "oul'", for example, is a convenient way of marking orthographically a real Hiberno-English pronunciation of 'old' which uses a diphthong: for such an argument to have minimal phonological credibility then 'owl' should be used to signal that the Hiberno-English diphthong is an /au/ diphthong. It is, ironically, the Received Pronunciation of BSE, of 'old' which carries the /ou/ diphthong which O'Casey uses to mark for deviancy in SS, MP and MH.

28The crude stylistic device of misspelling is also used to portray the British Auxiliary soldier:

'Oo's, 'ere, awd, 'earing, 'ow (122), koind, blowke, de-loighted, down't, ow, han', selt, seltic, ahn, 'ere x 3, sawr, suppowse, 'ave, abaht, an', prawse, relowded, watah (123), 'ello, 'ere x 2, an' (124).

29Mr. Maguire (MM), the Landlord (L), Minnie Powell (MP), Tommy Owens (TO), Mrs. Henderson (MH), Seamus Shields (SS), Mrs. Grigson (MG) and Adolphus Grigson (AG) are also portrayed by the use of deviant syntax. Some of the following is Hiberno-English, and is used here exclusively only by characters who have also been portrayed as linguistically deviant in other ways:

can't be DID x 2 (MM 84), THEM's for you (L 86), I danced rings round ME (MP 89), you WAS (TO 93), you SEEN (MP 94)/I SEEN (MH 97, 101/MP 121 )/I never SEEN (MH 102), pro NOR con (TO 94), let them AS THINKS (TO 95), it's him AS CAN put you (MH 96), more NOR a few minutes (MH 96), HIM an' ME WAS (MH 96)/ME an' Winnie WAS (MH 101)/(if I WAS you) (SS 106)/they WAS (MG 130), it's them AS 'ill be imposed upon (MH 97), WRIT (MH 97)/(MP 101), we... HAS had (MO 99), ME and my wife... HAS (MO 99), YOUS (MH 101), POWER-FULLEST (TO 101), ABOVE an hour (MH 101), THEM words (MH 102)/THEM windows (SS 112)/THEM societies (MG 114), THEM words IS true (MH 102)/the people IS hopeless (SS 125)/women IS (AG 128), hurtED (MH 102), she might as well have had the house BLEW up (MG 127), (down with you QUICK) (AG 128).

30The Auxiliary soldier is also portrayed as using deviant lexis and syntax:

ay? (122), Your'e a hoind blowke, you are, ay? x 2, An'what prawse if it did, ikey (123), you was, bloomin', ay? (124).

31Seamus Shields (SS), Tommy Owens (TO), Mrs. Henderson (MH), Donal Davoren (DD) and Mrs. Grigson (MG) also use multi-, usually triple-component linguistic items; this stylistic device is not exclusive, syntactically or stylistically, to HE, but it is still very common in contemporary spoken HE. Such a usage does not violate the syntactical or the stylistical rules of BSE:

like, when I like, an' how I like (SS 86), good bad or indifferent (TO 94), as decent an' honest an' quiet a man/ honest, decent, quiet, respectable people (MH 97), how it comes, where it comes, or when it comes (DD 111), Death is here, death is there, death is busy everywhere (DD 111), With her fancy stockings, an' her pompoms, and crepe de chine blouses (MG 127).

32Other types of Hiberno-English are used by Seamus

33Shields (SS), Minnie Powell (MP), the Landlord (L), Mrs. Henderson (MH), Tommy Owens (TO), Adolphus Grigson (AG), and Mrs. Grigson (MG). It is not being claimed that all of the items are exclusive to Hiberno-English. Por convenience, the items are sub-divided into noun- and verb phrases:

34Noun Phrases:

at all, at all (Vf 80/SS 120), any use or (Vf 80), at a body, upon my soul (SS 80), the like (SS 81), great stuff (SS 83), it's a glorious country (SS 83), a cod (SS 83), come rushin' in like a mad bull (SS 8'l), a roarin' Republican (SS 84), and so signs on it (SS 84), talk or no talk (L 86), at all events (L 86), honest and respectable people (L 86), I'll soon put a stop to your gallop (L 87), there'll be few sorry to see your back (L 87), thin skinned (SS 87), Hooley (MP 89). two-pair back (MP 89), weeshy (MP 89), dawny (MP 90), bit of a (MP 90), the oul' rellow (MP 90)/the oul ones (SS 106/108), he has a few Jars in him (MP 90), for any but a sweetheart (MP 92), There's no flies on (TO 94), that's Tommy Owens (TO 95), wan ov ourselves (Mll 96), here's your man here (TO 96), it's not in me (Mll 96), the very identical (MO 97/97/102), here's the letter an' all written (MH 97), as you'd meet in a day's walk (MH 97), we know our own know (MH 97), a fair account (MH 98), chllder (MH 99), right good (Mil 99), again them (MO 99), the name calling and the language is something abominable (MO 99), you'd never think it was in him to do it (MH 101), about the place (MH 101), a mallavoggln' (MH 101), a make (TO 102), till (MII 102), the Maguire (MP 102), its himself has them trained well (MH 103), belongin' to me (SS 106), she'd give the world an' all (SS 109), blower (AG 119), right enough (SS 111 x 3), there I'll leave you (SS 112), I haven't seen sign or light of him since (MG 113), a sup (MG 113), my heart is up in me mouth (MG 113), a sup taken (MG 113/4), too far gone in the horns (MG 114), a terrible man (MG 114), there's not one in the house... (MG 115), goughers (AG 116), a traneen (SS 118), motor (SS 120), a curer (MG 124), a terrible gang of blackguards (SS 124), he always brings a drop home with him (MG 125), he calls it his medicine (MG 125), stretched out dead in the bed (MG 126), an' not a feather astray on him (MG 128).

35Verb Phrases:

any use of callin' (Vf 80), make a cod of (SS 83)/you're on for coddin' me (MP 91), gostherin' (SS 85/AG 128), it ud be fitter (L 86), billickin' (L 86), do you be (MP 89)/do you never be (MP 92) that does be (MP 102) it does be (SS 109)/I do be (MP 121), be the way you don't know (MP 90), you're on for (MP 91), what must it be in the middle of... (MP 92), whether they'll talk or no (MP 93), We'd be hard put to it... (MP 9'1), if we minded what you seen (MP 94), youv'e no meddlin' or makin' with it (TO 94), your'e looking well, anyhow (L 85), can put you in the way o' (MH 96), an' I wouldn't take much an' say (MH 96), don't be keeping (MP 97), worried out of (MH 101), whisht (MH 102/SS 107), for he left (SS 106), what else ud be in it? (SS 106), gaddin' (SS 109), blowin' (SS 111/AG 119), you couldn't tell the minute a bullet ud come (SS 112), I do mean it (SS 112)/You do mean what (DD 112), arter takin' x 2 (MG 113/after gettin' (MG 127), no, I'm tellin' a lie (MG 113), a sup taken (MG 113/4), sure he has me heart broke (MG 114), isn't he a terrible man to be takin' such risks, an' not knowing what'll happen to him (MG ll4), there's no one mindin' you (MG 115), to take a fall out av (AG 116), Have you me (AG 117)/I have you (DD 117), what... is goin' to come out of it all (SS 118), ho knew his own know (AG 119), what ud put a bother on Dolphie Grigson (AG 128).

36Examples of items which might also feature in the last category include the use of the so-called Narrative Present as in "I don't come here to raise no argument" (L 85)/"I just come in" (MP 89)/"berore they come in" (AG 121): such usages are not exclusive to Hiberno-English but are still used very commonly in contemporary writing and speech in Ireland. And examples of items omitted because of doubts about whether they also feature prominently in other varieties of so-called non-standard British English would include the use of the indefinite article in "I'll never miss a Mass again" (SS 122).

37O'Casey, as is true of all literary vriters, uses a wide variety of nonce items. The second and third.' of the following examples of nonce idioms are adaptations of expressions used commonly in Hiberno-English:

to spoil sport (MH 96), there's game in Mr. Gallicker still (MH 96/7), them words is true, Mr. Gallicker, and they aren't (MH 102).


38The text is very successful in depicting a generic Irish atmosphere, in depicting sub-group national and religious identity and splinterisrn in Ireland, in depicting historical myths about sub-group ascription, and in depicting the characteristics of perceived Irish personality traits. It would have been easy with such a wealth of detail about Irish Invertedness for the text to fall into the stage-Irish trap.

39There is no stage-Irishism In this play. There are no Bulls, for example; instead, the cognate English device of malaproplsm is used. The dialect writing used in this play is similar in structure, but not the same as stage-Irishism or broguelam; the orthographic marking used in the text of the Gunman. might be used by any writer who used the device of so-called dialect writing to mark for deviancy. From a meta-semiological point of view, there is no difference in how the text marks linguistically someone protrayed as Nationalist Irish, northern Unionist Irish, and English.

40The text of the Gunman could serve as a prototype of petit-bourgeois writing. Donal Davoren Is portrayed as non-deviant; all the other major characters and most of the minor characters are portrayed consistently as deviant through the use of malaproplsms, misspelling and incorrect syntax. The basis for the argument here does not depend on the stage directions which tell us (80), for example, that in Seamus "is frequently manifested the superstition, the fear and malignity of primitive man", or those which tell us that Minnie is not intimidated if she meets people "of a superior education, as long as she meets them in the atmosphere that surrounds the members of her own class" (89).

  • 7 A simple graphic model which is useful for explaining the various approaches to assigning meaning (...)

41Literary critics may argue that while Davoren may be portrayed as non-deviant, he is also portrayed as cowardly and grossly selfish; and that while Minnie may be portrayed as consistently deviant, she is also portrayed as gentle and generous and loving. Such conclusions do not contradict the conclusions of the meta-semiological approach used In this analysis. Other scholars may argue from O'Casey's life, that he was a sincere anti-bourgeois Socialist; text semiology makes no judgments about authors, their intentions, or possible interpretations of plays by readers or audiences, or about the socio-histo-rical accuracy, whatever that might mean, of creative texts.7 Classifying the text semiologically as petit-bourgeois is a Judgment on this text, and not a moral judgment on O'Casey; judging the work of creative artists on the basis of their personal ideology or morality may be interesting as gossip, but seems to have no academic relevance.

42It was very surprising that when Hiberno-English is used, it is used consistently only by those who are linguistically portrayed as deviant; the only exception is the use by Davoren of the triple-component items which do not violate any rules, even stylistic rules, of BSE. By using Hiberno-English in this restrictive way, O'Casey deprives himself of being able to exploit Hiberno-English as Joyce and Beckett, for example, have done; because Hiberno-English does not have any overt standard, writers who use this code are not subject to the rigid standardization which English writers, for example, may unconsciously accept.

43It was not surprising that those marked by language use as religious, are also consistently those marked as deviant. The only exception is the blasphemous English soldier who is depicted as ignorant of and aggressive towards all denominations, Protestant and Catholic, and towards different types of Irish political ideology: he flings the Bible on the floor, saying "Have you seen the light/is your soul saved" – and a Protestant is made to pray for an Irish Republic – "his hands crossed on his breast, his eyes lookin' up at the ceilin', an' he singin' a hymn – We shall meet in the Sweet Bye an' Bye" – while the soldier drinks whiskey from the bottle as he laughs at the praying Protestant (MG 125). An important study remains to be done on the portrayal of the English in certain strands of Irish drama.

44It is very surprising that there is only one specifically Dublin language item used in this play – "goughers" (AG 116)- and it is used by the character who otherwise is portrayed as an Orange Unionist from Northern Ireland. Many of the Hiberno-English items used in this play are still found today in Dublin English, but they are not exclusive to Dublin; even if the crude practice of dialect writing is accepted, it is important to note that the text makes no effort to mark for what would be regarded as exclusive Dublin phonology, even of the stereotypical kind. Much of the text easily transfers into a rhythm of Dublin speech, and the text of O'Casey is usually played with Dublin accents; the text also transfers easily, however, into the rhythms of Cork City English.

  • 8 M. O Criomhthain, "Terms of Address in Translation: (English, Irish and Romanian)", Babel, 31 (198 (...)

45It is difficult to see how any adequate stage translation of the Gunman is possible. I am not referring to such nationalist-cultural items as "I taught Irish six nights a week" (SS 84), or historical references such "as Sarsfield said at the battle of Vinegar Hill" (TO 95), or the religious reference items; such difficulties are common to many literary translations, and a partial solution is suggested elsewhere.8 But how can the deviant language, both the orthographic and the linguistic, be conveyed in a stage translation? In the text, for example, Adolphus is signalled as Northern Unionist by the exclusive use of "av" and "dud" (117): in a stage production in English, a director can use an option not available with a translated text and can attempt to follow such text Indicators by giving Adolphus a Northern Ireland accent. The soldier is also depicted as being linguistically deviant, and the director can in turn, solve this problem by the Auxiliary using a Cockney accent; such an option is not available if the staging of the text uses a translation. But there are also dangers for the director of the text in English; the director can easily choose the cheap option by getting the actors to use brogue-speak, for example, for Irish characters.

46But what is the translator to do with the orthographic Indicators which mark for deviancy? What is the translator of a stage version to do with the language which indicates linguistic deviancy? How is the translator to indicate that the characters marked as linguistically deviant also are those who use Hiberno-English? Programme notes will solve many of the cultural references, but there seems to be no solution for the deviancy indicators except some partial solution through the use of a standard language and a well-known dialect which has been used in the writing of drama, e.g., standard Romanian and the Bucharest dialect, or standard Italian and the Neapolitan dialect.

47This paper makes no judgment about the literary merits of the Gunman In another place, using a different type of evidence, it would be claimed that The Shadow of a Gunman is an important work of creative writing, and a stage-drama of merit; such a judgment is in no way inconsistent with the conclusions of this paper.


1 The text used in this paper is The Shadow of a Gunman, in S. O'Casey, Three Plays (London: Macmillan, 1968), pp. 75-130. All references to this text are given within the paper.

2 A.C. Partridge, "O'Casey" (Glossary), in Language and Society in Anglo-Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1984 °, pp.232-35; J.A. Snowden, "Dialect in the Plays of Sean O'Casey", Modern Drama, 14 (1972), pp. 387-91; M. Schlauch, "Language and Politics in the Plays of Sean O'Casey and Brian Friel", in Anglo-Irish and Irish Literature: Aspects of Language and Culture, ed. B. Bramsback & M.J. Croghan (Uppsala, forthcoming).

3 B. Schrank, Reflection of Reality: A study in the Uses of Language and Time in the Plays of Sean O'Casey (Ph. D., University of Wisconsin, 1969); "'You Needn't Say No More': Language and Problems of Communication in Sean O'Casey's 'The Shadow of a Gunman'", Irish University Review, 8 (1978), 1, pp. 23-38; a summary of comments about O'Casey's language by scholars such as Trewin, Brustein, Krause, Hogan, Raymond Williams and Ayllng is found in "'There's Nothin' Derogatory In th' Use o' th' Word': A Study in the Use or Language in The Plough and the Stars". Irish University Review, 15 (1985), p. 169. The warning comes on p. 169 of the last item, and on p. 23 of the Gunman paper.

4 C. Kearney, "The Language of O'Casey: The Glamour of Grammar", in Bramsback & Croghan, n. 2.

5 U. Ellis-Permor, The Irish Dramatic Movement (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd" 1939), p.13; R. Ayling, "Patterns of Language and Ritual in Sean O'Casey's Drama", Anglo-Irish Studies, 2 (1976), p.27. I have attempted to deal at length with such myths about Hiberno-English in "Demy-thologlsing Hiberno-English" (Mimeo, NIHE, Dublin).

6 D. Krause, "The Playboys and Paycocks", in The Profane Book of Irish Comedy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 181-95.

7 A simple graphic model which is useful for explaining the various approaches to assigning meaning in practice, is given in M.J. Croghan, "Where Did Limbo Go? The Analysis of a Real Theory of Meaning", in Bradford Occasional Papers: Essays in Language, literature and Area Studies (Bradford: University of Bradford, 7, 1986), p.66. This paper uses examples from religious language In nineteenth-century Ireland, and the language of sexism and ecumenism to illustrate the model.

8 M. O Criomhthain, "Terms of Address in Translation: (English, Irish and Romanian)", Babel, 31 (1985), 3, pp. 138-43.

© Presses universitaires de Caen, 1988

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